September 10, 2003

Peterson Takes Mayoral Democratic Primary

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Late last night, the Tompkins County Board of Elections announced that Carolyn Peterson (D-4th Ward) won the Democratic primary with 799 of the 1645 votes cast, 48.6 percent of the vote.

Peterson will be on the Democratic side of the ballot for Mayor of the City of Ithaca on Nov. 7.

Peterson, who has also won the Working Families Party’s nomination, will face Lt. John Beau Saul ’97, a police officer who has gained the endorsement of both the Republican Party and the Independent Party. She will also be running against Paul Glover, the Green Party candidate, and founder of Ithaca Hours and Ithaca Health Fund.

If elected, she will be the first woman to serve in Ithaca as mayor.

Carolyn Peterson was joined by family and friends at the Laborers Local 589 Union where the results were announced and celebrated. As votes came in, supporters kept track of the results, cheering when the final numbers were tallied.

“This is a good day for Ithaca,” said Gui Gerard, an Ithaca resident.

“I am so happy and so thankful for the number of people who have helped on this campaign,” Peterson said as she arrived at the site and was greeted by cheering fans.

Peterson attributed her victory to the way in which her campaign was run, which included walking throughout Ithaca during the summer to meet voters. “I used an old fashioned door-to-door campaign,” she said.

Laughing, Peterson added, “what a long summer it has been.”

According to Peterson, the message she sent to voters was the reason for her success. “I think our message resonated with voters … we’re looking for some change in City Hall,” she said.

Peterson expressed an interest in hearing constituent concerns through public comment and open forum discussions. She added that in addition to larger issues that affect the city of Ithaca, she was also interested in learning about “the smaller pieces that affect our constituents,” including construction and neighborhood issues.

Peterson said that the next two months before the general election will be spent talking and listening to more voters. “We have thousands of voters who have not had the chance to vote in this election, and those are the voters we are going to go out and meet.”

She added, “I look forward to the next two months and the chance to move forward in a positive direction.”

Peterson’s supporters included family, friends, council members and Cornell students among others.

Gayraud Townsend ’05 and Michael Taylor ’05, Cornell students who are running for Ithaca City Common Council, both attended the celebration to support Peterson. Both students have worked with Peterson on the Collegetown Common Council.

As results from each of the wards were tallied, Taylor remarked that there was a low turnout in the fourth ward, which includes Collegetown. Taylor explained, “that’s because we didn’t have time to register students.”

Taylor said that he and others will be working to register as many students as possible before the general election in November.

“Students can expect to see a lot of us,” Taylor said. “Expect a much higher turnout in the general election,” he added.

David P. Marsh, the Business Manager for the Local 589 Union, said that the Union endorsed Peterson for a number of reasons. “We endorsed Carolyn after interviewing the three candidates,” Marsh said. At the time, candidate Paul Glover was not running in the race.

Marsh said that Union members were “most comfortable with Carolyn” because of her experience and the issues that she promoted. “She has a good track record of being committed to working families and union values,” Marsh said.

Eric Lerner Ph.D. ’75 came in second place with 482 votes, 29.3 percent.

“Looks like a loss,” Lerner said on his way to congratulate Peterson on her victory. Lerner added that it was too late to seek a third party nomination, putting him effectively out of the race.

Saul came in third place with 364 votes, 22.1 percent. However, unlike Lerner, Saul has received the endorsement of other political parties, and will still appear on the ballot in the general election.

“I’m disappointed that I’m not the Democratic Party’s choice but I’ll continue to be on the ballot in November,” Saul said. “I’m really happy with the coalition that we’ve formed and a lot of people who have joined us — they say that they want us to end partisan bickering.”

The polling for the closed primary took place at ten separate locations throughout the City of Ithaca. These locations included Class of 1922 Hall, RPCC, the Bell-Sherman Annex, Alternative Community School, Titus Towers Two, South Hill School, Greater Ithaca Activities Center, Tompkins County Public Library, #9 Fire Station and Fall Creek School.

Of the 5,462 registered Democrats eligible to vote in the primary, 30.1 percent participated. Saul noted this as a factor in his defeat. “I’ve been talking about the decline of civic involvement in Ithaca and we still have a ways to go to get our friends and our neighbors active in our community again. These are really disappointing voter turn out numbers. Our strength is in the folks that are below the political radar, the non-politicians. We’re not politicians; we’re ordinary folks who see a better way,” he added.

Archived article by David Hillis